Manmohan heads to Russia for two summits, set for Zardari meeting

June 14th, 2009 - 5:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, June 14 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh leaves to attend two back-to-back regional summits in Russia Monday, his first overseas trip since his re-election last month that will also see the first icebreaker meeting between him and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari since the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks.
The Russian Urals city of Yekaterinburg, on the border between Europe and Asia, will Tuesday host the dual summits of the Brazil-Russia-India-China (BRIC) grouping and the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) comprising Russia, China and Central Asian republics, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyztan and Tajikistan.

India, along with Pakistan, Iran and Mongolia, is an observer at SCO.

With his domestic standing higher than ever before, Manmohan Singh, the first Indian prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru to get a second consecutive term after a full five-year term, heads to Russia to seek a bigger voice for India on the global stage.

He will be accompanied by National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and other senior officials.

The economist-statesman, who took the lead in transforming India’s relations with the US with a landmark nuclear deal last year, is now focused on creating new models of regional partnerships in Asia.

Despite Pakistan’s perceived inaction against the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage, the meeting with Zardari will underscore Manmohan Singh’s willingness to make a fresh bid for peace with the estranged neighbour.

It’s not, however, clear what form this meeting will take - whether it will be a photo-op or a closed-door meeting that could set the stage for a resumption of composite dialogue that was stalled after the Mumbai attacks nearly seven months ago. But no breakthroughs are expected, official sources said.

The first stand-alone summit of BRIC, an acronym coined by Goldman Sachs’ economist Jim O’Neill, takes place against the backdrop of the world’s worst economic recession in the last seven decades. BRIC brings together emerging economies that are expected to be among the world’s top six by 2050 and account for a little over a quarter of the world’s territory, 40 percent of global population and 40 percent of global GDP.

Evolving a collective response to mitigating the global slowdown and the long-overdue reform of global financial institutions, hitherto considered the preserve of the original G7 group of the world’s wealthiest nations, will top the agenda of BRIC leaders.

Other issues like protectionism, free mobility of labour, food and energy security, climate change and finding an world currency alternative to the dollar will also figure in the discussions Tuesday afternoon and will be reflected at the end of the summit.

Forging a collective response to defeating the extremist Taliban in Afghanistan and a larger counter-terrorism strategy in the region will top the agenda at the SCO summit - the first one an Indian prime minister will attend after the grouping’s summit in Dushanbe last year decided to upgrade the status of observers’ participation in the discussions.

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